Windsor Castle fire — Remarkable images show horrific damage

Christmas decorations transform Windsor Castle

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This weekend marks 30 years since Windsor Castle was severely damaged by a huge fire that cost the Royal Family millions of pounds. The fire broke out as the Queen celebrated her 45th wedding anniversary with Prince Philip, and the flames began to grow at 11:30 am, sparked by a hot lamp setting a curtain alight.

It wasn’t long before the inferno spread to other parts of the estate, making its way to Brunswick Tower and St George’s Hall. Windsor Castle lacked fire-stopping materials, meaning the blaze was able to cause serious damage.

By the afternoon, the floors of Brunswick Tower had collapsed and, by 6:30pm that evening, the tower was completely engulfed by the flames, reaching heights of 15 metres.

Just after this, St George’s Hall also collapsed. The fire was not fully extinguished until the early hours of November 21. Fortunately for the royals, Windsor Castle had its own fire department comprised of 20 men, based two miles away.

Around 10 times the amount of men were eventually called on to fight the fire, however, calling on support from London, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Oxfordshire, and Berkshire fire services.

While the fire had caused huge amounts of damage, the royals were able to save some valuable artefacts including artworks and jewellery. In fact, Prince Andrew had reportedly organised a human chain to move valuables to safety. Two pieces were lost, however. One was a rosewood sideboard, and the other was a 1798 painting of George III by Sir William Beechey.

Pictures of the Queen wearing her famous hooded mackintosh were seen by the public the next morning as she inspected the extent of the damage.

At first, the country rallied around her to offer their sympathy. But the subject became more polarising when the Government announced it would pay for the restoration. At the time, it was estimated that this could cost anywhere between £20million and £40million.

In the end, the repairs produced a huge £36million bill. But, 70 percent of this was raised by opening Buckingham Palace to visitors. It was also reported that the Queen used £2million of her own money.

The Queen reflected on the fire just a few days later when she gave a speech while marking her 40th year as monarch in a year that had been mired by controversy.

She said: “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.”

Images from the Royal Collection Trust show the transformation Windsor Castle went through thanks to the repair work. St George’s Hall now looks pristine, and the Grand Reception room was saved with a new roof and new flooring.

Repair works officially finished on November 20 1997, exactly five years after the fire broke out and on the 50th wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip.

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The fire in 1992 topped off a disastrous year for the Queen as three of her four children seperated from their partners. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson had told the monarch that their marriage was over. It was later revealed that the Queen had tried to convince them to try and save their relationship.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana were also unable to conceal the fraught nature of their marriage. Princess Anne and Mark Phillips also divorced, just one week before the Windsor Castle fire happened.

In a speech at the end of 1992, the Queen famously branded the previous 12 months as “annus horribilis”. She added: “There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. No institution – City, Monarchy, whatever – should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don’t.

“But we are all part of the same fabric of our national society and that scrutiny, by one part of another, can be just as effective if it is made with a touch of gentleness, good humour and understanding.”

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